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“MIL COLMILLAS” My rating: B (HBO Max)

Among my current guilty pleasures is HBO Max’s “Mil Colmillos,” a Colombian TV series that slices and dices several strains of popular sci-fi and action flicks to create its own heady cocktail of mayhem and horror.

Is it good?  Not sure. After all, in English the title is “A Thousand Fangs,” which pretty much announces its pulpy intentions.

What I do know is that I gobbled up its first seven episodes and am now anxiously awaiting the arrival of Season 2.

A squad of Columbian special forces soldiers are sent on a secret assignment into the jungle of a neighboring country.  Since their presence there is completely illegal, they cannot rely on outside help…they’re on their own.

But each episode also contains a mini-episode set in the 1500s in which conquistadores and their Indian scouts go searching in this same jungle for treasure…and stumble across countless horrors.

Both the modern soldiers and the matchlock-toting Spaniards are picked off one by one by the jungle and its denizens.

Just what they’re up against is never made clear.  There are, it goes without saying, fanged humanoids looking for a snack.  But there are also masked locals whipped into a frenzy by a charismatic leader; one entire episode is devoted to the commandos’ defense of a long-abandoned factory compound besieged by hundreds of these fearless, faceless killers.

There are hints of an ancient Indian curse, and possibly a psychotropic drug loose in the environment that can turn a well-trained soldier into a murderous drone.

And it’s pretty obvious that the big brass back at the base know stuff they haven’t shared with the boots on the ground.

There are dark caves and tunnels. Crumbling ruins. Thick vegetation that could be hiding…anything. 

A cynical little voice in the back of my head tells me that that the creators of “Mil Colmillos” cannot possibly find a logical way to sort out all the elements they are throwing at us, that ultimately the series is going to collapse beneath the weight of its pretentions.

And yet on an episode-by-episode basis this is terrific stuff, a survival fantasy in which the characters are reduced to a couple of salient traits (just so we can tell them apart) and simply staying alive becomes their reason for being.

The series borrows shamelessly. “Predator,” zombie flicks, the Kurtz sequence of “Apocalypse Now,” plague melodramas and just about every “lost patrol” movie ever made are sampled and mined for high-tension possibilities.

Yeah, the big payoff may never materialize.  But at the very least “Mil Colmillos” is a happy waste of time.

| Robert W. Butler

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